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Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott has always been one of the more original high-profile performers on the music scene. Though she's generally classified in the hip-hop section of your record store, it seems a shame to box Miss E. into any of today's corporate definitions.
She is a staple favourite of M-TV video replays, and has had a pretty impressive share of hits since her debut in 1997. But her success is as much a surprise as it is deserved. What sets Miss E.'s productions apart from the hit radio herd are the dark edges that surround fun rhymes and clever production turns.
Her strength is that she seldom limits herself to one stylistic approach. In song after song, unexpected twists and delivery tricks keep you off balance, demanding more attentive listening - or at the very least much repeated listening, as you decode the busy soundscapes layer by layer.
On "Irresistible Delicious", for example, we get to hear some old-school hip hop loops morph into old-school R&B grooves - it's like Nike tracksuits meet the mirror ball - or Run DMC meets Teddy Pendergrass!
"Lose Control" (featuring Ciara and the ever-screaming Fat Man Scoop) is the current MTV single, its high-energy video driving it into high-rotation. Miss E. can get dirty, albeit with her tongue at least partly in cheek, as in "Meltdown", an ode to a new boyfriend's - erm... equipment "Bet it tastes like candy".
"My Struggles" with Mary J. Blige and Grand Puba is a standout track. While Puba drops the OG style with flare, it's once again Elliot's stylish delivery that immediately draws you in. Getting Mary J. to 'rap' is a novelty in itself, but to add that to a track about the artists' real-life difficulties makes it all the more compelling.
The rest of the album has very few lowpoints. And what few there may be are quickly forgotten as the pace changes at breakneck speed. In that sense The Cookbook is a busy album, loaded with clever side-steps and funny, if poignant asides.
If one quote from the album could characterise it, it might from the opening track, on which Elliott proclaims: "I see a lot of folks sitting around here like your shoes (are) too tight. If you wear a size ten, don't cram your sh*t up in a size six. Be proud of your big-ass feet".
- Anton MarshallWHAT OTHER CRITICS THOUGHT
...back on top, sounding as unique and startling and formidable as ever, Missy Elliott is clearly not a woman to be messed with.- Alexis Petridis for The Guardian
While not every cut is a winner, Elliott does a fairly consistent job of gaining the listener's attention through her outrageous lyrics and performance style. - Steve Horowitz for Pop Matters
Like an untethered spouse suddenly separated from a longtime love, Elliott seems a bit lost somewhere between her intimidating past and her newfound independence.- Ryan Dombal for Pitchfork Media
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